Japan / some practical questions

Old Sep 24th, 2010, 12:11 PM
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Japan / some practical questions

First of all, many thanks to all who have posted so much great information..it certainly will make traveling to a most unusual place easier

Some additional questions:

When visiting the temples and museums , are there many many high steps...my traveling partner had knee surgery 9 months ago and doing splendid but going up many steps is a bit taxing at times. Just wanted to know what the situation is.

Also, have any of you participated in the Onsen, Japanese bath? bathing suit or no? and how was it?

How are the pillows in most hotels..should we consider taking one of our own..have heard they are very flat and sparse..can you get more than one?

I have been watching the weather in Tokyo and Kyoto and it seems that the temperatures are a bit cool for the average time of this year? If anyone is there now or have been lately..do you think it will be an unusually cold October. Our travel dates are Oct 21 thru Nov 7..first in Tokyo then Kyoto.

Where is the best place to change dollars to yen other than our bank at home? we live in Mexico and will travel first to Houston, Texas, then to San Francisco, then Tokyo.
What is your opinion of changing at the airport in Houston, SAn F. or Narita airport when we arrive in Tokyo..and does it make that much difference in these choices?

I am sure I will have more questions..but greatly appreciate all your replys.
Happy traveling to all of us.
D.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 01:37 PM
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The number of steps will vary from temple to temple. Chion-in and Kiyomizudera in Kyoto have many; others none.
No bathing suit in the onsen, just a discreetly held face cloth/towel until you step into the bath itself.
Some traditional pillows, as in a ryokan, are quite small and hard. You can probably get additional ones. And many hotels cater to western tastes with larger and softer pillows.
Most Japanese friends are telling us that the temperatures remained hot through September this year after a hotter than usual summer. Expect fall temperatures to be at or above seasonal averages. Check online for those averages. (You're comparing Mexico; I'm comparing Canada. Your "a bit cool" might be my "a bit warm.")
Changing $US TCs at Narita would get you the best rate.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 01:58 PM
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WilJame, thank you so much..
D.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 02:54 PM
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I am currently in Kyoto, having spent one night in Tokyo on the way. It was warm and very humid initially, but the last couple of days have been cooler, although still a bit humid. I live in NC, and have found the temps lower but the humidity higher.

I am limping, and skipped parts of a couple of temples because I didn't want to climb steps, or go up and down slopes. You may want to consider taxis - or I saw a few pedicabs in eastern Kyoto yesterday!

My Capital One ATM card worked in a Citibank ATM in Tokyo airport, and in two different Post Office's in Kyoto. I have also used my Cap One Visa to buy train tickets and pay for hotels and some restaurants.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 03:06 PM
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Davisman,
Google "Japanese Onsen Etiquette" to read all about it before you get there.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 03:13 PM
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For information about onsen etiquette:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2002.html
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Since you are looking, have a look at this page and don't forget to click on the links at the bottom of the page especially the one regarding "Japanese bathing etiquette"

http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/a...okan/index.htm

Aloha!
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 03:22 PM
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For changing money: best (fastest, best exchange rate) is at any of the ATMs at Narita airport. You'll find them after you exit from the Customs Hall.

No need to take pillows with you. Unless you are staying at a hotel where you would have needed to know Japanese to make the reservation, you can get a non-hard pillow.

Leave your swimsuits in Texas, and you may find that you'll have left some of your inhibitions in Japan.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 03:41 PM
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Some info on Kyoto transport for the friend with the bad knee. The east-west subway line appears to be fairly new, and has adequate escalators and elevators. BUT, the north-south line does not. There is likely to be one elevator, at the other end of the LONG station from the exit you want, which will probably have over 50 steps (I counted).

Once you get the free bus map from the T.I. in Kyoto Station the bus system is dead easy to figure out. Most bus stops have timetables and some have electronic signs indicating whether the bus is close. However, the traffic is awful and they can be very slow (and crowded) - it took me 45 minutes from Kyoto Station to the Daitokuji Temple complex - nice flat area, and I absolutely loved Koto In. On the other hand, I didn't think Ginkakuji was worth the effort it took to get there - at least not the section I saw, which didn't involve climbing (although the approach is uphill). Go to Eikando instead - it has a brand-new elevator to get you to the most important building and MANY fewer visitors..
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 03:43 PM
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The only place swimsuits are worn is somewhere like Hakone Yunessan, which they call an onsen theme park: http://www.yunessun.com/english/
Otherwise nudity with discreet use of hand towel is the norm. Many upper-scale ryokans provide private onsen baths (some outdoors - rotenburo) attached to your room or those that can be hired just for your own use by the hour.

Best to get your Yen from an ATM that takes non-Japanese cards on arrival. There are several that do at Narita, but not all of them (some are provided by local Japanese banks and don't take foreign cards). Citibank, Japan Post (post office), Seven Bank (inside 7-Eleven convenience stores) and Shinsei Bank are the main ones that do. For best rate of cashing US$ bills, head for discount ticket shops near major train stations - their rates are always better than banks. Beware limited opening hours, often closed weekends.

Western-style hotels usually provide soft, comfortable pillows. If you need more, just ask at the front desk. I find Japanese hotel beds comfortable - very supportive if you suffer from bad back.
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 05:22 PM
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kja - that link you provided says you should rinse off, get in the tub and soak, get out and wash and rinse, and get back in. Surely that's wrong? I thought you were supposed to wash before getting in, and that's what HT's link says.

Davisman - another consideration for those with dodgy knees and ankles. Don't know if your friend is female, but all the female toilets on the main floor of Kyoto station were squats (with no TP), while I think I remember correctly that the shinkansen had western toilets. Two good feet and legs make all the difference with squats!
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Old Sep 24th, 2010, 07:25 PM
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Its not about how low you go its about how you tilt!!! Also how you pull your clothes forward as you tilt!!!
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Old Sep 25th, 2010, 05:50 AM
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So much good information here..the little things we don't see as much about..thank you all so much..feel like i am better prepared now.
D.
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Old Sep 30th, 2010, 05:56 AM
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Yes, you wash your ENTIRE body thoroughly with lots of soap and hot water then rinse off the soap before you get into the soaking tub.
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